I’m Diana Swillinger, and this is the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode Number 16 Good Emotions vs Bad Emotions.
DIANA: Hey. Hey. Today we’re talking about emotions again. We’ve talked about processing them. And today we’re going to take a look at whether some emotions are good or bad. First, I want to read a, uh, quick review that was left for me on itunes. This is from Leanne Austin. It says awesome. Podcast. Diana does a beautiful job sharing useful thoughts and tools that have enhanced my life. I appreciate her Christian perspective in sharing the importance of spiritual and practical. The practical tips and examples Diana shares are fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Leanne.
I am really happy to continue sharing practical ways to live and be emotionally and spiritually healthy. Uh, because that’s what changed my life. I had struggled for so long. I knew so many amazing things about God and his promises. I had an understanding of morals and values that I wanted for my life. I cared about making the best of my life, and I just couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know how I m couldn’t make it from where I was, which was struggling, to the life I wanted. I still remember that day. It just seemed like it all became too much.
My marriage had been in bad shape for years. I was taking care of four kids, working full time. I had re enrolled in college m because working full time and kids wasn’t enough. And I was trying so hard to do everything right, but it didn’t feel right. Everything just felt wrong. And there I was, lying in my bed in the middle of the day, in the middle of the afternoon. The blinds are shut, and I’m staring at them and the sun’s trying to shine through that yellowish orangeish glow of the afternoon sun. And that’s it. I wasn’t even really thinking anything else because my brain was just empty. Just sitting here noticing the blinds.
And my phone rings. It’s my mentor from church. She’s calling me back. I emailed her in the morning, so I pick it up. Hello? She asks me some questions. She’s listening to what I have to say, which is not very much. I tell her I don’t even know what I’m feeling and I don’t feel like doing anything. And she says, Diana, is it possible you’re discouraged? All of a sudden, I feel this wave of relief just move through my entire body. Just because she named my emotion, instantly I had relief. And from that day, forward. I was diving into books, exploring life, coaching psychology, reading the Bible, listening to podcasts, reading what philosophers had to say, different thought leaders. Like anything I could put my hands on. It was like, uh, something was uncovered. That day. I saw how just naming my emotion gave me relief, and I knew there had to be something to it.
So with all my research, I put some practical tools together that changed everything for me. Tools that use emotions as a way to figure out what we’re thinking. Tools that get you beyond just naming your emotion to a place where you can process it and feel it on purpose. And then my favorite tool of all I’ve talked about already. But it’s a tool that helps you manage and shift your thoughts so you can ultimately direct your emotions. And when I was finally able to put this all together, I went from having no energy to being inspired and energized and wanting to show up better for the people in my life. I went from hiding in my bedroom to reaching out to people I trusted and people who would challenge me to be my best self. And I went from feeling discouraged to having courage to move forward no matter what life was thrown at me. My problem wasn’t that I didn’t know all the teaching in scriptures about renewing the mind. I knew that stuff. I just did not know practical steps to make it happen. Now that I have those steps, now that I have those tools, I totally want to help as many people as I can by teaching it. I know this is how we can stop sabotaging ourselves from the life we want. This is how we can open up and get unstuck and feel joy and peace and contentment.
All those things that we know God promises. We just need to learn how to manage our brains and get out of our own way. That said, let’s talk more about the piece of emotions in my own life. Like the day my mentor helped me see that I was feeling discouraged. I know that tuning into my emotions is a huge part of renewing my mind. We can just feel relief just by being able to name what we’re feeling. If we’ve never been able to do that before, uh, it’s like validating ourselves. It gives us a sense of acknowledging ourselves and understanding ourselves. And that alone gives us relief and is very powerful, even if that’s all we do. And sometimes this means you need to make space to feel it then too.
Sometimes by the time you acknowledge it, you’ve kind of felt it already and then you can release it. Sometimes by the time you acknowledge it, you have to give yourself some space to then allow it and feel it. Because of all this, I want to talk about good and bad emotions. You like the good ones, right? Don’t you? Here’s some of the emotions that people would consider good ones. Excited. Optimistic. Cheerful, content. How about awestruck? It’s a good one. Peaceful. Joy. Love. We call them good. We like how they feel. So what would we call bad emotions? Maybe fear. Loneliness. Envy. How about disgust? This makes me think of, uh, the M Pixar movie inside out. Disgust is green. Okay, some other possible bad emotions. Frustrated, depressed. Anxious. Hurt. Grief. So if those are the bad emotions, why is it that we think they’re bad? I would say it’s because we just generally don’t like to feel them. We don’t think they feel good, so we think they’re bad.
Now, classifying emotions as good and bad can be helpful as we learn to understand our behavior. If you go back and listen to episode ten where I’m talking about the Mind Shift tool, you’ll remember that I talk about behavior being a result of what we feel. Sometimes when we have an emotion that we don’t like to feel, we think it’s bad that we’re feeling it. And then our behavior is to try to avoid it or suppress it or get angry or blame. And it makes sense that we’d want to avoid something if we think it’s bad. So if we think feeling hurt, oh, that’s bad, well, then I’ll go eat some Oreos so I can get a hit of dopamine and feel better. If we feel disappointed, we might think, oh, that’s bad. So now I’ll blame the other person for canceling on me so I can feel angry at them instead of feeling the disappointment. Classifying emotions as good or bad like that can help you get some awareness and understanding of why you behave the way you do when you feel certain things.
Here’s another one feeling bored. You know what a lot of people do when they’re bored? Sometimes? They eat. I know a lot of people that eat when they’re bored. I have teen and young adult boys. You know what they do when they’re bored? They play video games. Some people drink when they’re bored because we think feeling bored is bad. And then we need to do something to not feel bored. So that’s a little bit about why we do some of the things we do and why we call some emotions good or bad. But let’s challenge our thinking a little bit on how we categorize emotions. So while we find it might be helpful to understand emotions as good or bad to reveal why we’re behaving a certain way, I’m not sure that it really serves us beyond that. I believe that if you want to change how you behave when you have an emotion, it’s not going to be useful to consider the emotion either good or bad.
You know what is available to us? We could just consider that all emotions are good. That’s possible. How could that be true? It’s a good thing that we feel when we feel it means we have a conscience. When we have emotions and we feel things, it means we were created in God’s image and our minds and bodies are working correctly. Last week, I was coaching someone live on my monthly webinar, and she was trying to stop her daughter from feeling hurt and disappointed. Real quick synopsis. The woman’s ex husband was not responding to her attempts to arrange a Father’s Day time with her daughter. And she was worried that her daughter would be upset or in pain if dad didn’t respond about spending Father’s Day with her. So what I told her is, it kind of makes sense that daughter would feel disappointment if dad doesn’t contact her. And I wanted to know, does that make sense? She said, Actually, I would wonder what was wrong with her if she didn’t feel pain in that situation. So how about that? It’s a good thing that she was feeling pain in that situation. Interesting means her daughter is human. It’s normal for her to feel disappointment in that situation. So is disappointment a good or bad emotion? It could be good. That might mean all sorts of good things about that daughter. She cares about connection. She cares about love. She cares about relationships. She’s conscientious. She understands connection. She cares about her dad.
Feeling disappointed is a good indication. I also think emotions are just good because God gave them to us to process our thoughts. Remember, we call emotions feelings because emotions are a physiological response to what’s happening in our brain. Emotions are our body’s way of making sense of our experiences, our relationships, and our thoughts. All emotions can be useful. So here’s what I propose. I’m proposing that instead of letting your brain determine by some default setting whether an emotion might be good or bad, I propose you ask yourself about the emotion. Ask yourself if it’s serving you. When that daughter’s dad doesn’t contact her, does it serve her to feel disappointed? I think it does. It gives her body a physical outlet for the pain. Because remember, this is a normal response, that she’s a healthy human being. So allowing her body to physically process disappointment is useful. That’s emotionally healthy.
Feeling the emotion also might then lead her to trying to solve the problem. Instead of trying not to be disappointed, she allows the disappointment. It can be cathartic, and it can help clear her brain so she can think more clearly about making a decision about how she wants to move forward. Practicing allowing and feeling our emotions is probably the most practical way to develop our emotional maturity because we’re taking responsibility, we’re allowing, we’re acknowledging, we’re naming, we’re just letting them happen as they’re supposed to, as our bodies were created to process them. So the best thing mom can do in that situation is help daughter learn how to allow and process disappointment. She can validate the emotion, just like my mentor did for me when I was discouraged and when we validate the emotion, we validate the person and that brings comfort and release.
Maybe we don’t fully understand why some emotions actually have to hurt or be painful or be uncomfortable. But it could be that the contrast to the more enjoyable emotions allows us to feel them even that much more in a more pleasant way. The contrast. We enjoy love so much more when we know the pain of loneliness and grief. Without loneliness and grief, how good would love even feel? Maybe we take it for granted. We feel the lightness and bubbliness of happy in contrast to knowing the weight and the flatness. Being sad, they contrast.
Happy is that much better. Sometimes emotions that we consider bad will drive us to do amazing things. If we didn’t feel uncomfortable, would we ever be motivated to improve things and make this world a better place? So in my coaching practice, I do, for the sake of better terms, describe emotions a lot of the time as negative or positive just to give some context to them. Basically, the positive emotions are the ones we’re conditioned in our culture to enjoy and the negative emotions are the ones that we think are uncomfortable or we wouldn’t normally choose, but that doesn’t mean we have to think of them as bad. I’ve changed my mind on a lot of them. Grief. Um, I used to think it was bad. I don’t think it’s bad anymore. I m think grief is a really good emotion. When I grieve, it means I’ve cared and I have loved deeply. It’s a sign that I’m a healthy and a relational person and grief is just as welcome as love is for me now it really feels different than love. But grief is kind of mixed in with love in a way too. And I think it’s good to grieve.
Disappointment. I don’t classify this one as bad anymore either. For me, disappointment is an indicator of what I care about. When I feel disappointment, it’s like, uh, an alarm or an alert of what I appreciate and what I find enjoyment in and value in my life or what I find purpose in. I want to feel disappointment sometimes. Disappointment also is a reflection about how much I care. Basically what I’m saying is that, uh deciding whether any emotion is good or bad is really kind of relative anyway. But for sure, all emotions can be useful when you take time to name them, give them space, allow them, process them and use them to inform you as you grow in your character. Use them to inform you and give you insight into yourself as you work on becoming a healthier person and creating the life that you want. So instead of asking if the emotion is good or bad now when you notice you have an emotion and you name it you can ask yourself if that emotion is serving you.
Some emotions I’ve experienced I don’t think they serve me very well. More often than not, they’re pointing out an error in my thinking. Let’s use envy as an example. I cannot think of a situation in which feeling envy serves me. Envy is actually defined this is great. You know, I love the dictionary. Envy is defined as painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another person. A, uh, painful, resentful awareness. But it’s good when I notice envy because it alerts me that my thinking is off.
Usually when I notice something like that and I’ve decided, I’m not sure this emotion is serving me, I just go back and clean up my thinking. If I’m thinking someone else’s million dollar lake house is an advantage that they have that I think I should have, and it’s not fair, then I feel envy. I’m like, I don’t think that’s serving me. Even if the result I want is a lake house, I don’t think envy is the emotion that’s going to lead me to the behavior in my life that’s going to produce a lake house for me. Envy doesn’t usually drive good results in behavior that advances your life. It’s more likely that I’m going to achieve that get that lake house. If I’m purposely feeling emotions like hopeful or motivated or determined to help me achieve what I need to achieve to get that result, envy, all that does is punish me with resentment. So envy, in the moment I notice it, it’s useful to help me manage my thoughts. Okay, so for those of you who want to complete the mind shift on this one, I’m just going to say I’d probably go to a thought like, I’m going to figure out how to be in a position to buy a house like this someday. So that would give me a thought that would help create feeling hopeful or motivated. All right, one more example for you guys.
Let’s do guilt. We all get this one, don’t we? We all feel guilt. Who thinks guilt feels good? Do you think it feels good? I agree that processing the feeling of guilt might be uncomfortable, but I’d still argue that guilt is a good emotion to have. Guilt is an emotion that healthy people who care about other people and care about being a decent person feel. Guilt comes from a thought like, I did something wrong. Guilt can serve us. Guilt clues us into the fact that we didn’t do something the way we wanted to or the way we believe it should have been done, or it didn’t match our morals or values, or it affected somebody else in a negative way. And so we feel some guilt. We can acknowledge it.
For healthy people, it will usually lead us to repentance. Basically, what repentance is is turning away from what you did wrong or turning away from a sin. And actually, literally, it means to change one’s mind. So what you get with guilt, if you’re in a healthy place and you process it, it will lead you to change your mind. Or you could say it would lead you to renew your mind. Guilt can serve us. I know it might sound like I’m playing semantics here and just playing with words. Well, I am. Um, that’s what I do. Words are really important. Labels we put on things are important. How we describe things are important. The words we use in our thinking are very important. Semantics are important. That’s what I’m doing. And you don’t need to label emotions as good or bad unless it serves you. But for the most part, you don’t really need to spend that much time there. Your time is much better spent acknowledging the emotion, processing it, and deciding whether it serves you. Think about it. All right, y’all. I’ll catch you next week. Until then, take care.
As an advanced, certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. Uh, I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcas.com, to get my free resources or a free coaching call.